Oaklawn hosts advocate Ross Szabo in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week

Ross Szabo

SOUTH BEND — Oaklawn will host Ross Szabo, author and mental health advocate, in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Szabo will speak Oct. 1 at a fundraising luncheon to benefit Oaklawn.

Szabo will share about his personal journey with bipolar disorder, which was diagnosed when he was only 16 years old. During his senior year of high school, he was hospitalized after attempting to take his own life. It was during high school that Szabo first spoke publicly about his mental illness.

“When I was in high school, I was called the crazy kid,” Szabo said in a video by Goalcast. A few months after he was released from the hospital, a psychologist came to speak to Szabo’s class. As he spoke about his patients, everyone in the class was laughing. Except Szabo.

“I said, ‘This isn’t funny to me.’ And [the psychologist] looked down at me in the most rural Pennsylvania way and said, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ And I had no idea that the answer I was going to give was going to change my life forever. But I looked back up at him and said, ‘Let me speak. Let me tell people what it’s like to go through this.’ I stood up in that classroom and spoke for the very first time, and when I finished, no one laughed. I learned at a very young age that if you share your story, it opens people up to sharing theirs.”

After graduating high school, Szabo enrolled in American University, but had to take an extended leave of absence due to a relapse with bipolar disorder. He eventually returned to school and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He served as the Director of Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign from 2002-2010. He has shared his personal story of hope and recovery with millions of people around the world.

“We’re so excited to have Ross as a guest this year,” said Kari Tarman, an Oaklawn spokesperson. “His story is so common, yet what he’s accomplished is remarkable. And that’s the same opportunity we have as a community: to unite around a positive message that embraces mental wellness, especially for our young people. As many as 1 in 5 youth have a diagnosable mental health condition and they deserve our support.”

Szabo will speak at a luncheon to benefit the Oaklawn Foundation from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Palais Royale in downtown South Bend. Reservations cost $50 per person and support local mental health and addiction treatment services. Deadline to reserve seats is Sept. 20. Reserve online at www.oaklawn.org/events.

Oaklawn provides mental health and addictions treatment to 30,000 children, adolescents and adults. Oaklawn – which has campuses in Elkhart, Goshen, South Bend and Mishawaka – offers inpatient and outpatient treatment, as well as residential services for youth.

More information about Oaklawn services can be found at www.oaklawn.org.

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